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It's a miracle! Cook County Board moves toward merger of clerk, recorder jobs

Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Crain's Chicago Business
by Greg Hinz

Maybe it was something in the water.

The Cook County Board today took the first step toward doing something that almost never happens in this part of the world: consolidating two government agencies into one, a step that will save taxpayers money and likely result in no loss of service.

The action came when, by a surprisingly wide 10-5 margin with 2 absent, the board's Finance Committee voted to hold a referendum on merging the offices of county clerk and county recorder of deeds.

Assuming the full board ratifies that decision later today—and that's expected—the measure will appear on the November general election ballot.

Sponsoring Commissioner John Fritchey termed the action "historic"—the first time the county has moved to eliminate an elective office since 1972, when the elected county coroner became the appointed medical examiner.

Fritchey had come up a vote short in a similar move four years ago. And earlier this year, when Commissioner Pete Silvestri moved to make the job of clerk of the circuit court appointive, the action spurreda verbal brawl of sorts,with foes terming the action "racist," since the current clerk, Dorothy Brown, is African-American.

The incumbent recorder, Karen Yarborough, also is blackand opposed the proposal,and today's vote followed racial lines. But it did not spur the same kid of outburst as in the Dorothy Brown matter.

County President Toni Preckwinkle supported the Fritchey bill but was neutral on the other earlier proposal.

The incumbent county clerk, David Orr, has been widely rumored to be preparing to retire soon, perhaps to be succeeded by Commissioner Chuy Garcia, the former mayoral hopeful. The clerk's office has a budget of about $35 million a year and the recorder $13 million.

Update, 1:30 p.m. —Fritchey says today's action could set in motion largest merger in county history. "It's going to be up to voters to seal the deal."

And, he went out of his way to thank three commissioners whose votes were in question: John Daley, Larry Suffredin and Luis Arroyo.



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